Pain. That’s all Jeremiah New ever knew.
“When I was 10 or 12 years old, I started having hip pain,” said Jeremiah, now 29. “My mom was a pastor and traveling missionary, so we never went to doctors. God was our doctor. We just prayed for my hips.”
In 2008, Jeremiah moved to Arizona to attend culinary school. He met his now-wife, Krystal, at a karaoke bar there.
“We started having a bunch of babies,” Jeremiah said.
His mom died in 2013. Around that time, his hip pain grew almost unbearable. It didn’t let up, but he’d been raised to pray about it. Raised to believe that God would heal.
Krystal saw the extent of her husband’s pain when he woke up, how he’d struggle after a long day of being on his feet as a chef. She convinced him to see a doctor in the small border town where he worked.
“It was the first time ever I had been to a doctor,” Jeremiah said. “We grew up with God being our doctor. A local doctor took X-rays of my hips. He said, ‘Well, I don’t know how to tell you this but your femoral heads are totally deteriorated. It’s worse than a 90-year-old. On both sides.’”
He diagnosed Jeremiah with hip dysplasia.
“I was born breech,” Jeremiah said. “They think I was born with my hips out of socket. Over time, my hips were rubbing against my pelvic bone and the bone got soft and totally deteriorated. By the grace of God I was able to even walk.”
The border town doctor told Jeremiah he had fixed broken bones before, but never performed a joint replacement surgery.
Jeremiah opted for a more experienced doctor.
A reason to move
“My sister, who lived near Grand Rapids, told me about the Spectrum Health Center for Joint Replacement,” Jeremiah said.
He didn’t hesitate. Four days later, the family packed.
With Krystal pregnant with the couple’s fourth child, they moved to the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area in October 2015.
Two weeks later he met with Hassan Alosh, MD, a Spectrum Health orthopedic surgeon specializing in joint reconstruction.
“As soon as he walked in the room he looked at the screen (with Jeremiah’s hip images) and said, ‘Wow, I have never, ever seen anybody’s hips more deteriorated than yours,’” Jeremiah said.
I never really knew what a pain-free life was. I was sleeping with pain, waking up with pain. I would sit down and not be able to get off the couch. It’s so wonderful now to have Jacob run up to me and jump on my lap and not have to cringe knowing the pain is coming.
Dr. Alosh said it’s unusual for such a young person to require hip replacement.
“Probably around 1 percent of total hips are done in people this young for hip dysplasia,” Dr. Alosh said. “He had severe hip dysplasia where his hips never developed normally. It has been present since birth. He was having difficulty walking, sitting, standing and essentially any function that required hip movement.”
Dr. Alosh replaced Jeremiah’s right hip with a ceramic ball and socket on Dec. 22, 2015, at Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital. Jeremiah returned home on Christmas Eve.
“When I woke up right after the hip replacement, even though there was some surgical pain, it was like night and day,” Jeremiah said. “I didn’t feel the squeezing pain, electricity through my hip or the grinding thing.”
Jeremiah, Krystal and their children lived with Jeremiah’s sister in Ravenna while he rehabbed at Spectrum Health’s Outpatient Rehabilitation program in Sparta.
After three weeks of physical therapy he could walk without crutches or cane.
Next up? Left hip surgery. On March 3, 2016, Dr. Alosh replaced his left hip. With his hips properly placed, Jeremiah went from 5-foot-11 to over 6 feet tall.
“It was like night and day again,” he said. “I went from pain of 10 every single day to zero pain within two weeks.”
With working hips and a newfound sense of confidence, Jeremiah applied for a position as a chef at the brand-new Wheelhouse Kitchen and Cocktails in downtown Grand Rapids. He got the job and started on April 1.
He gets to be more of a dad. He gets to go out and kick some balls and do things he wasn’t able to do. It’s been a miracle.
He now works sometimes 60 hours a week crafting culinary creations. And his hips are holding up. He can squat now and walk without pain.
“I can have my kids come jump in my lap without having agonizing pain,” Jeremiah said. “Last year, I didn’t even know if I could work 40 (hours). Now I’m working 55 to 60 hours a week. I’m blessed all the way around.”
As he spoke, he cuddled with his 6-year-old son, Jacob, on a tan leather chair in their living room. They had moved to this northwest Grand Rapids home two weeks prior.
“I never really knew what a pain-free life was,” Jeremiah said. “I was sleeping with pain. Waking up with pain. I would sit down and not be able to get off the couch. It’s so wonderful now to have Jacob run up to me and jump on my lap and not have to cringe knowing the pain is coming.”
Elizabeth, 3, climbed up on her daddy’s lap next and kissed him on the cheek.
“We stretch almost every day,” Krystal said.
Her husband agreed.
“I set goals to get further and further,” Jeremiah said. “I’m more limber. It’s new for me. It’s all a learning process of different things I can do. The thought process is changing to where I can walk normally again.”
Krystal said watching Jeremiah get into a car was like watching a woman in a tight pencil skirt. His legs couldn’t spread, or move very well.
Krystal used to be the one to put his socks on, as if he were one of their children.
“I don’t have to be a mother to him anymore,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Wait, you can do it yourself?'”
He can even pick up their 1-year-old, Elijah.
“He couldn’t do that before,” Krystal said. “He gets to be more of a dad. He gets to go out and kick some balls and do things he wasn’t able to do. It’s been a miracle.”
A dad again
As the older children crawled up on his lap, Jeremiah recalled the pre-surgery pain.
“I couldn’t even perform daily functions anymore,” he said. “I was fearful because I had never been to a doctor.”
His thoughts were interrupted by Jacob.
“Daddy, can we play outside?”
Little brother Lucas, 2, smiled at the thought. Jeremiah helped Lucas put on his shoes.
“See, I can squat down to put my kid’s shoes on,” Jeremiah said. “I couldn’t do this before.”
The kids bundled up, then followed their dad into the backyard.
First, Jeremiah pushed the kiddos on the swing set, something that would have caused great pain at this time last year. Next, he kicked a soccer ball with the little ones.
Elizabeth pointed to a Barbie doll on the garage roof, there when they moved in.
Jeremiah, Krystal and the kids all looked up. They make a practice of looking up often, toward the heavens, giving thanks. They do it during a day of home-schooling, and at night during bedtime prayers.
Jeremiah believes he’d been led to the right surgeon, at the right time. And, despite a human doctor healing him this time, he believes he’d been in God’s hands all along.
“There’s really one thing that got us through this, and that was God,” Krystal said. “There’s nothing like faith in him.”